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Durham Jazz Singer Finds Strength in Song

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DURHAM — The Grammy Awards shine a light on stars of the music industry. One of those shining brightest is a rising star from Durham.

"I feel strong, I feel powerful, I feel beautiful, I feel intelligent -- all those good things -- when I sing," says jazz singer Nneena Freelon.

Her voice has been called supple and refreshing. But after 15 years in the music business, six CD's and three trips to the Grammys, you get the impression Freelon is just beginning.

"It's almost as if it's something that I can't not do. It's as if the music chose me," says the Durham singer.

The music chose Freelon when she was a young girl and enjoyed singing in church. But it wasn't until later in life that she made the commitment to pursue music full-time.

Her most recent album, "Maiden Voyage," is a collection of songs written or co-written by women.

"I wanted to just shine the light on these people who do something in a very private way and just say look, there's some wonderful music out there written by women," she says.

More importantly, Freelon just hopes listeners enjoy her interpretation of these songs.

"I'm just training your ears to hear the phrasing as a way to lead you into something else," says Freelon.

And as she rehearses songs for her next recording venture, Freelon hopes to be an inspiration for those who aspire to do the same.

"It is difficult," she says, "but not impossible. And if people say there's a million to one chance, why shouldn't you be the one?"

Freelon was nominated in the best jazz vocalist category. Before leaving for Wednesday's awards ceremony in Los Angeles, she said even if she didn't win, she considered it an honor just to be nominated by her peers.

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Laurie Clowers, Reporter
Lynn French, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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